Chenai grabbed the white bowl in which she’d been defrosting maguru and placed it on the kitchen counter. It was only 1PM, but she wanted to prepare them early so that by the time her daughter came back from school, the offensive smell would have been washed off before cooking, and the meat well cooked. She was such a fussy eater, and Chenai had been trying her hardest to get her to like traditional food.
On a green chopping board, for she was now in the habit of not chopping everything on the same chopping board after taking a food hygiene course, she finely chopped one medium-sized red onion, one medium-sized white onion, 4 cloves of garlic and about an inch of a ginger finger. Her father had taught her, once upon a time, that garlic and ginger were one of the best ingredients to cook with, not only because of the health benefits, but also because they burst with flavours and add a nice taste to food. She thought of him as she placed the maguru into a large pot, immersing them in warm water and then added the garlic and ginger immediately. She sprinkled some salt and nutmeg into the pot, stirred for a few seconds and placed the lid onto the pot to let it all cook. She gave it two hours, and in those two hours, she decided to put her feet up and opened “Zimbabwe”, a collection of poems by her favourite author, Tapiwa Mugabe. Yesterday she’d read “Excuse me, my heart is opening again”, and her past had flashed before her eyes. She liked to dissect each stanza, capturing the emotion behind the poetry, with which the author had written. His words caressed her mind and she nodded in approval with each word she read. She got up, paced around the room and imagined herself as a spoken word artist, speaking of food, perhaps. She wondered what it would be like to describe her love for food, like the way the flesh falls off a well-cooked oxtail bone on a Sunday evening, or the adrenaline rush she felt as a child as she gobbled down fish without taking care with the fish bones. Words couldn’t describe how she felt, and before she could wonder some more, her timer dinged, alerting her to check the pot. Sure enough, there was only a little bit of water left in the pot.
Whoever introduced her to cooking with butter, really transformed Chenai’s culinary life. The aroma from onions was distinctly different when cooked in butter in place of vegetable oil. It even sizzled differently! She eagerly grabbed her tub of unsalted butter from the fridge and dug out a tablespoonful and chucked it into the pot. Maguru typically had a lot of fat on their own, but she found that occasionally, a little bit of oil or butter aided the frying process. She watched as the pot licked at the butter, melting it and spreading it all over the pot. The maguru seemed to welcome the butter, frying up nicely and turning from a dull greyish colour to a darker, richer and tasty-looking colour. After a few minutes of stir-frying them, Chenai added the red and white onions to the pot and fried it all together until the onions were soft. She then added one can of chopped tomatoes as she was usually too lazy to chop up whole tomatoes from scratch. She also found that she didn’t always find ripe and red tomatoes that would give her sauces the flavour she was after, so canned tomatoes were a convenience she needed. She watched as the food sizzled in the pot, and she hummed “Amazing Grace” as she stirred the tomatoes in nicely. Before the tomatoes were fully cooked, she poured in what looked like two tablespoons of Royco beef mchuzi mix, stirred thoroughly and reduced the heat slightly to allow it all to cook without burning.
“Good afternoon, mum”, Cherish said as she came into the kitchen, her school uniform covered in dust and her hair unkempt.
“Oh you’re home early! And you look filthy!” Chenai exclaimed as she hugged her daughter.
“Mmm, that smells nice. What are you making?” Cherish asked as she edged closer to the stove and reached out to open the pot. Chenai playfully slapped her hand away, telling her it was rude to open one’s elders’ pots when they were cooking!
“Ouch!” Cherish laughed and went back upstairs, leaving Chenai with a huge smile on her face. Her daughter thought the food smelled nice before she even realised what was in the pot. That, to Chenai, was quite an achievement. She opened the pot and added some boiling water, stirred and left it to simmer. She’d serve the maguru with sadza and spring greens, she decided; at least Cherish loved spring greens.
About the author:
Sh’anesu Gutsa is a multi-award winner, aspiring published author, motivational blogger and vlogger, food enthusiast, volunteer and budding entrepreneur. She is passionate about women empowerment and community development programmes, and she is the founder of The Revolutionary Girls of Zimbabwe mentorship and coaching programme.
Find her on social media:
@chef_shanners on Instagram and Twitter